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Pittsburgh Penguins' Mike Sullivan named U.S. men's hockey coach for 2026 Milan Olympics

Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan stands behind his bench during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators on April 15 in Pittsburgh. Sullivan has been named U.S. coach for the 2026 Milan Olympics. USA Hockey announced the long-expected decision Saturday, while also saying the Pittsburgh Penguins coach will be behind the bench for the NHL's Four Nations Face-Off tournament next year. Associated Press File Photo

Mike Sullivan was selected U.S. coach for the 2026 Milan Olympics on Saturday, an expected move that puts the two-time Stanley Cup champion in charge of the country's bid for its first gold medal since the “Miracle On Ice” in 1980.

USA Hockey also announced the Pittsburgh Penguins coach will be behind the bench for the Four Nations Face-Off next year, a tournament the NHL will showcase in February 2025 for a taste of international competition leading up to the Olympics. Milan marks the return of NHL players to the Olympics after missing the past two.

“We're excited to have Mike guiding our teams,” U.S. general manager Bill Guerin said. “He is one of the very best coaches in the game and his background, including with international hockey, is well-suited to help put our team in the best position to win.”

Sullivan, a native of Marshfield, Massachusetts, was an assistant at the 2006 Olympics, also in Italy in Turin. Most recently he was on John Tortorella's staff for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Each of those events went disastrously for the U.S., which also lost to eventual champion Canada in the semifinals of the 2014 Sochi Olympics and then to Finland in the bronze-medal game.

NHL are set to be back in Milan and then France in 2030 after an agreement was reached between the league, Players' Association, International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation. It's an opportunity for a generation of American stars, including Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Adam Fox, Charlie McAvoy and strong players in goal to finally compete together on the world stage.

Sullivan, who coached Pittsburgh to the Cup, will run the show. He was supposed to coach the U.S. in Beijing in 2022 before the NHL withdrew late because of pandemic scheduling issues.

“I am beyond grateful to have the opportunity to coach Team USA in these two significant international events,” Sullivan said in a release. “It's been amazing to see the progress we've made in hockey in our country over the course of my career. I am honored to lead our best players and I look forward to the challenge that lies ahead.”

Sullivan, 56, also previously coached the Boston Bruins during his lengthy career that began in the early 2000s. He has been with Pittsburgh since being promoted as a midseason replacement in 2015-16. As a player, he represented the U.S. at the world juniors in 1988 and the world championship in '97.

“Mike Sullivan is not only a great coach but someone who has a strong passion for American hockey,” USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher said. “He's a world-class leader and been an important part of hockey in our country for a very long time.”

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